Monday, September 24, 2012

All Aboard! Fall Excursions on The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Looking for a great way to view the fall colors of Western North Carolina's mountains? Scenic rail excursions from the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad take you from a historic depot through the beautiful countryside of Western North Carolina. The variety of train excursions and special event trains makes it perfect for making memories with your friends and families.


All Aboard The Polar Express™! This memorable journey will take you on an incredible journey! Believe the magic this Holiday season! Over 42,000 passengers rode The Polar Express™ with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in 2011. The 1 ¼ hour round-trip...Learn More ›

Dinner Train Tribute to Elvis

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is excited bring you the new Dinner Train; Tribute to Elvis!  Partnering together with Communities in Schools, they are happy to participate in the upcoming Elvis themed dinner train. All proceeds from this special train will be going...Learn More ›

PEANUTS™ Pumpkin Patch Express

The leaves are turning this October and the pumpkins are ready to be carved! The PEANUTS gang return to the GSMR Pumpkin Patch this October.Ready for some family fun? What is saying about this Family Fun? Check it out! PEANUTS™ The Great Pumpkin Patch Express returns to the Great...Learn More ›

Fall Foliage Ablaze

In autumn, the mountains of Western NC are a dramatic display of fiery sugar maples, buttery poplars and crimson oaks.We would love for you to see it! BOOK YOUR SEAT NOW!     Enjoy the cool crisp air of fall from one of our Open Air Gondolas or one of our First Class Cars....Learn More ›

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pisgah National Forest

The Pisgah National Forest is a land of mile-high peaks, cascading waterfalls and heavily forested slopes in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Comprised of over 500,000 acres, the Pisgah is primarily a hardwood forest with whitewater rivers, waterfalls and hundreds of miles of trails.

The Pisgah National Forest is famous for it's waterfalls just outside of Brevard, NC, including Looking Glass Falls. It's right next to the road on Hwy 276 north, kid friendly and wheelchair accessible to the upper view. Other attractions in the area include Looking Glass Rock, Slide Rock, Shining Rock Wilderness, Middle Prong Wilderness, rock climbing, hiking, fishing, swimming, fall colors, and scenic views.

Looking Glass Falls
U.S. 276 can be accessed in Waynesville. Also known as the Forest Heritage Scenic Drive, this 65-mile paved road through the heart of the Pisgah Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest, takes you past waterfalls, historic sites, mountain overlooks, and miles of lush, undeveloped forest.

Additional features of the Pisgah National Forest and directions can be found here:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Black Balsam Knob - A Spectacular Hike on the Blue Ridge

The Black Balsam area of the Blue Ridge Parkway includes one of the most spectacular mountain balds in the Southern Appalachians, Black Balsam Knob. This treeless mountaintop draws people from afar due to their sweeping views.

The quickest way to the summit of 6214' Black Balsam Knob is via the Art Loeb trail. This is a walk of about 1/2 mile which gains about 400' in elevation. The first quarter mile passes through a thick Balsam Grove (hence, Black Balsam Knob) after which the trail abruptly breaks out onto the wide grassy ridge. It passes through open, grassy and rocky mountain meadows and this short walk is highly recommended!

What sets this peak apart from others in this region is expansive grassy summit. Almost entirely devoid of trees above 6000', you can hike almost 3 miles without dropping back into the trees. This is likely due to the more popular peaks that can be found to the east and west. 

Black Balsam Knob is one of the most uniquely beautiful mountains in the Southern Appalachians. It lies on the southern edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness, in the Pisgah National Forest, and is only a mile or so off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Directions:  The Black Balsam Knob Access Road is located just west of Milepost 420 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The nearest access points to the Parkway are US-276 which crosses the Parkway at Milepost 412 on its way from Waynesville to Brevard. The other is by way of NC-215 which crosses at Milepost 423 on its way from Canton to Rosman.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. Here are a few of the highlights we recommend:
  • Cades Cove - A very popular wildlife viewing area, Cades Cove is the most visited area of the park. Stunning views, old homesteads and mills, and deer, black bears and other wildlife can be viewed up close on this one-way 11 mile loop.
  • Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail - This five and half mile one-way road is just a short trip from downtown Gatlinburg.  Several pull-offs along the trail allow visitors to take in stunning creekside settings, old homesteads and cabins, with a spectacular view of fall colors.

  • Waterfalls
    • Abrams Falls - A five mile hike round trip follows an up and down trail to Abrams Falls which is located in Cades Cove.  Abrams Falls is only 20 feet tall but the amount of water that flows over the falls is well worth the hike. 
    • Grotto Falls - Visitors can walk underneath and behind this waterfall.  Watch the water flow over your head as it plunges the 25 feet down the falls.  Grotto Falls is at the end of a three-mile uphill walk.
    • Laurel Falls - Laurel Falls is a relatively short but moderately difficult trail; 1.3 mile uphill hike to the falls on a paved trail. 
    • Rainbow Falls/Mount LeConte - Mount LeConte is one of the tallest mountains in the park, and Rainbow Falls is located on the way to the top. At 80 feet tall, Rainbow Falls is the highest waterfall in the Smokies.
  • Newfound Gap Road - This 33-mile stretch runs from Cherokee North Carolina to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. At its highest point, Newfound Gap Road crosses the mountains at 5, 046 feet. 
  • Clingman's Dome - The highest point in the Smokies, Clingman's Dome offers amazing views from its observation tower. 
  • Mountain Farm Museum - This 19th century farmstead at the Cherokee, NC entrance to the park, iscomplete with a farmhouse, work buildings, and a barn.  If you go in the summertime you will be able to see live demonstrations of what it would have been like to live on a farm during this time period.